Cultural Immersion: No Passport Required


Laura Paquette


October 28, 2020

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As the parent of a bilingual child, you dream of hopping aboard a plane and fully immersing your family into a Hispanic culture. Whether you’ve already explored Mexico City, are actively planning a trip to Madrid, or are saving your pennies to take your kids to Buenos Aires, you know that 100% immersion is one of the most effective ways for a child to learn a new language and become part of the target culture. But what about the rest of those 365 days of the year? Are they destined to be void of cultural exposure, apart from a trip to a Mexican restaurant? At Brilliant Bilingual, we think not. While most are unable to spend lengthy amounts of time abroad, all families are able to bring meaningful cultural experiences to their child’s lives without ever leaving the country. Here are our top 3 tools for cultural immersion at home, no passport required.
Peanut butter and jelly. Macaroni and cheese. Culture and food. You just can’t have one without the other. The challenge is to look at food as a lense through which to understand a particular culture. Two great jumping off points are cooking a meal together or visiting a restaurant from a particular culture.

The internet holds a plethora of recipes from across the globe. Choose one and make a plan to cook it with your child while exploring the dining customs of your chosen culture. One fun and easy recipe is la tortilla española, the Spanish tortilla or omelette. Make the tortilla and eat it with your child during a long lunch, followed by a siesta, as is customary in southern Spain. Use the tortilla as a jumping off point to talk about Spain and the history of tapas. Besides enjoying a tasty meal, your child will discover important elements of Spanish culture, such as shared meals and adapting to life in a hot climate. Below are links to making and learning about the Spanish tortilla, but a quick Google or Pinterest search will help you prepare for whatever meal you choose.

When you’re not looking to channel your inner chef, you and your child can visit a restaurant from a Hispanic culture. Where you live will determine which kinds of restaurants you can find. Find a restaurant, and then do a Google search of common foods from that culture. The most common of all Hispanic restaurants in the US, Mexican restaurants are a great start. Tortilla chips can segway into a discussion of the importance of maíz, or corn, to the Aztecs. A sip of Mexican hot chocolate can similarly spark talk of the impact of chocolate on the rest of the world.
Whether you choose to make a dish or enjoy it in a restaurant, be sure to serve it up with a side of cultural exploration.
While food is a delicious way to bring a culture to life, our next cultural immersion tool is more of a feast for the eyes and ears. Virtual reality has become more prominent in our culture, but one might be surprised to learn that it can be used as more than just a video game platform. Across the globe, digital designers are hard at work capturing the essence of our real world and sharing it online. As a result, thousands of museums, cities, and cultural objects are literally only a click away. To access these fun and interactive resources, you don’t even need a VR headset, just a phone, tablet, or computer. Google Expeditions, Google Arts and Culture, Youvisit, and Youtube are some of the best VR platforms. Just choose your museum, city, or artifact and you’ll find yourself in the middle of the action. Most VR experiences offer excellent explanations of the cultural connections to the content so there’s no need to prepare ahead of time. Just let yourselves (digitally) wander through galleries or get lost in a new city.
Our favorite VR platforms:

Those days when you and your child just want to curl up with a good book or a movie and some popcorn are the perfect time to keep the cultural immersion going. There are many great places to purchase Spanish language books for your child, which we explored in our last blog. Read with your child and talk about where the characters live and what their lives are like. You can even break out the globe and search for their home country or city. Cultural immersion isn’t just for bookworms though. On Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Pantaya (a Spanish-language streaming service), you can find a wide variety of movies and TV shows in Spanish for children. From all corners of the globe, these programs truly capture the spirit of Hispanic countries and will give your child a unique lense into the lifestyles of Spanish speakers from all different cultures. Sharing a moment together watching a show or movie allows you to be more involved in your child’s cultural explorations, and might even inspire a VR trip the home of the characters.

Top Spanish language streaming platforms: